Senior Activities and Gifts

Valentines for Grandma (12 Outside-the-[Chocolate]-Box Ideas)

Valentines for Grandma (12 Outside-the-[Chocolate]-Box Ideas)

In this article

Love. It’s the topic of the month, the color in the catalogs, the shape in the stores…

And it’s not just for heartthrobs.

As Frank A. Clark said,

“A baby is born with a need to be loved—and never outgrows it.”

If we never outgrow love, then it stands to reason that Grandma would love to receive a heartfelt Valentine from you. Hopefully, she knows she’s loved every day, but it’s always nice to take a moment and be sure since assisted living can be lonely.

So what should you get her?

Heart-shaped chocolate boxes are always an easy go-to, but if you prefer to be unique, check out one of these ideas.

Frontida Assisted Living Facilities such as Azalea Place in Kenosha provide you with posts like this one to help you live your best life.

#1.  Penny Candies 

As the name suggests, these tasty morsels aren’t expensive. But they will bring Grandma rich memories. They’re the candies she probably had when she was a kid: Mary Janes, root beer barrels, nonpareil chocolates, Bit-O-Honey, taffies, Pixie Sticks…

Many of these are still available.

  • Google popular candies and chocolate bars from the decade when she was growing up. (Yes, there are lists like that.) Or just ask her. It’s a great conversation starter.
  • Pick up her favorites. (Choose appropriate chews from what she can and can’t eat, of course.)
  • Pop them in a pretty candy bowl or plastic apothecary jar.
  • Store extras so you can refill the jar throughout the year, allowing her to enjoy the sweet recollections—and share them with others who come to visit or her friends at her assisted living facility.

Back in stores by popular demand? Those classic Sweetheart conversation hearts. After being a no-go for two years following the sale of the company in 2018, the new company is printing them again.

And best yet, they’re including titles from classic love songs from the 1950s and on, like LUVME TENDER.

Yet another chance to get nostalgic conversations going with Grandma.

Nothing says love like homemade cookies.

And, as you did with the candies, you can again go online to find vintage recipes for desserts just like Grandma’s mom used to make.

  • Make a batch for her with your kids OR get Grandma involved in throwing in the ingredients together with you. It’s one gift she won’t mind making for herself because you’ll be doing it together: A gift in itself.
  • Whoever you bake them with, house the yummy confections in a cookie jar. (Retro ones can often be found at thrift stores.) Then let Grandma take them home to once again share with those around her—after you all enjoy a few together with glasses of cold milk, of course.
  • Baking isn’t really your thing? Fill the cookie jar with old-fashioned store-bought cookies like Lorna Doones, Eskimo pies, or even Girl Scouts Thin Mints. (Yep, they can be considered vintage. Available as far back as 1951.)

This time it will be Grandma getting her hand caught in the cookie jar. And that’s perfectly all right.

(Need to change that favorite recipe to dietary needs? Check out these posts on sugar-free, salt-free, or low-fat recipes for simple fixes.)

#3. Retro Games

Bingo is all well and good, but how about other games that will have Grandma rolling dice down memory lane?

Thankfully, retailers seem to be “on board” with this idea. In the past couple of years, stores have brought back lots of older versions of much-loved games.

Or you can often find gently-used originals online.

Favorite ideas?

  • Clue, Mastermind, Pick-Up Stix, Careers, and, if she’s up for a marathon match, Monopoly (The very first Monopoly was a circle, but you can also find the earliest square ones!)
  • Then again, some games haven’t changed in years, and they’re just as great as ever. Give Grandma backgammon or cribbage, and let her teach the grandkids some of her mean gaming skills.
  • Once you’ve found some oldie-but-goodies, organize a game night for all her cohorts at her assisted living facility, and watch the fun stories take off while the tokens fly around the board.

#4. Photo Gifts

With all the digital photography and scanning abilities, photos can be made into anything—calendars, blankets, pillows, clocks.

And almost every place that prints pictures now also offers these personalized gifts.

  • Scan your favorite pictures from Grandma and the kids, Grandma and Grandpa, or Grandma and her childhood friends, or even new friends at her assisted living facility.
  • Choose what you’d like it printed on or even woven into
  • Place the order, and wait with bated breath

You know she’s gonna love it!

#5. Gifts that Show Who She Is—Beyond the Wrinkles

Grandma was once

  • A toddler, galloping around the living room
  • A tween, acting out her favorite T.V. show
  • A teen, blushing over a schoolboy crush
  • A college student pulling a prank on a best friend
  • A twenty-something, neck-deep in her first full-time job

But — unless you’re careful to watch for the twinkle in her eyes — a lot of that history gets lost in her walker.

It’s time to tell her story.

  • Grab a shadow box and fill it with her 1st place track medals
  • Frame pictures that show her in that hilarious variety show
  • Create photo books that spell out the time she took on the class bully

Then, when guests stop by, the box, pictures, and books act as fodder to prompt more true tales — and possibly some tall ones.

#6. Live Plants

Roses are the designated flower of Valentine’s for a reason. They’re beautiful, and they smell great. The only problem? They don’t last long.

But it’s important for Grandma to enjoy living things. Things that aren’t going to die in a week or two.

The answer? Potted plants. Or more specifically, orchids.

  • They give her something to take care of — A daily purpose.
  • They’re easy to tend — just need light from a window and a couple ice cubes every couple of days.
  • They remind her of life, growing in her room throughout the long winter.
  • And they’re beautiful, just like her.

Orchids don’t require a green thumb—but they can help Grandma blossom as they bloom.

(Note: Orchids can have a resting period for several months where they don’t bloom. Just keep adding those ice cubes. They’ll be blooming in no time.)

#7. Indoor Picnic

Nothing builds memories like a picnic—but depending on where you live, spring may feel like a long time away. So…

Bring the picnic inside—minus the ants, of course.

  • Pack her favorite finger foods, some refreshing lemonade, and a checkered tablecloth, then invite her friends from her assisted living facility to join her in the living room.
  • Want to make it even simpler? Pick up famous Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets in their special heart-shaped trays.
  • For dessert? Dig into those cookies you made. Or dip strawberries into chocolate. Finger-lickin’ good!

The room already feels warmer just thinking about it.

#8. Manicure/Pedicure

Not much explaining needed here. No matter how old we are, pampering feels good. And taking care of seniors’ feet and nails is actually really important for their health.

The only thing you need to decide is if you want one, too.

#9. Tickets to Her Favorite Show

We’ve talked about retro candies, retro cookies, retro games, but more and more, we’re seeing retro bands.

  • Google to see if any of her favorite groups are performing close by.
  • Check for local plays, musicals, or comedians.
  • Pick up gift certificates to the movie theater if there’s something she wants to see but it isn’t out yet.

It will give her something to look forward to long after the 14th of February has passed.

#10. Singalong with Her Friends

Do you play the guitar? The piano? The cello? Know family members that do? Let your talents be her gift.

  • Practice her favorite songs, invite her friends to join you all, and enjoy some live Karaoke.

Don’t forget to bring a camera. You’re going to want to record it.

#11. A Baby Doll—for Special Grandmas

This precious gift isn’t for everyone. Some grandmas might not need it, and it would give the wrong message. But Grandmas who show signs they are struggling with dementia or Alzheimer’s may show signs like:

  • Pulling more and more inside of herself.
  • Her memories seem to be locked in a different time and place.
  • She doesn’t know the people around her now even though she knew them before.

a baby doll might be just the thing for her.

Holding that doll might unlock emotions and thoughts in Grandma that she hasn’t shown in a long time. It can decrease her tension and give her something to care for. It can help her feel settled.

And you can see her eyes sparkle again.

Skeptical? Check out this viral video of Lilly when her granddaughter gave her a doll.

#12. Journal for Guests

If Grandma is living in an assisted living facility, she might have a lot of people coming and going in her day. It’s hard to remember them all, especially as days melt into each other.

Give her a journal for guests and helpers to sign.

  • Leave instructions in the front, asking them to write their name, when they came, and what they did together.
  • Encourage her or her helpers to write when something special happens in the senior living community: a group comes to perform, kids come to play, they go on a special outing, etc.
  • If she visits the doctor, he can write in the journal, too. Have him write any special notes in there for her to remember. Medicines, vitamins, and goals for exercise.

The journal can become a treasured piece of history as she chronicles the people who touch her life in these last years. And you can enjoy reading about them when you stop by.

By the way, don’t forget to leave her a special note in the journal when you visit, too!

Making Love Visible

“The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for Love.” ~Margaret Atwood

You don’t really need a special holiday to prove the love between you and Grandma. But it’s nice to have one anyway, just to remind her how special she is.

So which Valentine are you going to give her? Tell us about it on Facebook.

Frontida Assisted Living and Mental Health / Memory Care Facilities work hard to create a loving environment 24/7/365, not just on holidays. Call to see how we can help Grandma.

Here are more great gift ideas for Grandma and Grandpa for other holidays and celebrations.

Special thanks Ekaterina Shakharova on Unsplash for the featured image.

Elizabeth Daghfal
• 7 min read

Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. When she isn't teaching or writing-- Who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she's ALWAYS teaching and writing. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it--except for the fifteen months of winter. Read more about her at